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The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Pitch Perfect -- a winning musical comedy about a fiercely independent college student -- will give teens (and adults) plenty to like. Expect some strong language ("s--t," "bitch," "d--k," and one use of "f--k"), drug references, and underage drinking (though it's not heavily emphasized). There's also some kissing and lots of sexual innuendo and some sexual discussion, plus several jokes about a lesbian character's attraction to other women in the group. Although the young women portrayed here are, for the most part, strong and confident, sometimes a shaming word, "slut," is used to refer to them.
What's the story?
Beca (Anna Kendrick), an aspiring mixmaster/DJ, is a freshman at Barden University in PITCH PERFECT. Her father, a professor, won't let her drop out of college to move to Los Angeles and start her DJ-ing career without having her try college first. He ups the ante when he notices Beca spending more time in her dorm room than out on campus, attending classes and getting to know her peers. If she joins one group and gives it her all and still ends the year determined to move, he'll finance it himself. So off to the Bellas she goes; the Bellas, once an esteemed all-girl a cappella group, need new members. At the nationals the previous year, the now co-captain, Aubrey (Anna Camp), threw up onstage, ruining their chances. Then again, the Bellas have always played second fiddle to the Treblemakers, Barden's all-male group; the Bellas' repertoire is steeped in old songs, and they're stale. Beca thinks it's time to shake things up, and most everyone else agrees, but Aubrey is firmly in the skeptical camp. Can they make a comeback at this year's nationals? And can Beca keep her mind on the game when the Treblemakers' sweet and talented Jesse (Skylar Astin) is such a distraction?
Is it any good?
Let's all give a hand for this movie: It's a joy to watch a comedy like this, which wraps you up in belly laughs and catchy songs and makes whatever ails you seem far, far away. Let's take it from the top: Kendrick is a delight. Not only can she act -- though we knew that already from the wonderful Up in the Air -- she can also sing! Plus, special kudos to Rebel Wilson, whose subversively awesome Fat Amy won't be forgotten anytime soon. In fact, all of the a cappella troupes assembled here (or the voices behind them) are awesome. Never mind that they're kitschy and earnest and seriously competitive about their craft (which, in some circles, is considered decidedly uncool). The beauty of it is they don't care; they just want to make music.
Pitch Perfect pokes fun at a cappella performers of all stripes, but mostly with lots of heart and pride. That said, sometimes the film can't quite seem to decide whether it champions young women (which on the whole, it appears to) or not. The fat jokes can be wince-inducing, though Wilson makes them work; the liberal use of the words "slut" and "bitch" to refer to women is also a concern. (Still, the most obvious misogynist does get called out, and in a delicious way.) It also relies a little too heavily on a gross-out vomit meme. These complaints aside, Pitch Perfect hits lots of the right notes and will leave you in stitches and singing long after the credits roll.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about why Beca seems so jaded when she first steps on campus in Pitch Perfect. Is her position -- that she doesn't need to be in college to pursue her dream -- defensible?
Fat Amy calls herself "fat" as a way to get ahead of any possible bullying and because she's proud of herself just the way she is. What do you think of this approach? (Also, talk to your kids about bullying and how to handle it if it happens.)
Are college campuses really rife with this much competition among student groups? Are a cappella groups this cutthroat? What's the realistic take on this?
- In theaters: September 28, 2012
- On DVD or streaming: December 18, 2012
- Cast: Anna Kendrick, Brittany Snow, Elizabeth Banks
- Director: Jason Moore
- Studio: Universal Pictures
- Genre: Musical
- Topics: Music and sing-along
- Character strengths: Teamwork
- Run time: 112 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG-13
- MPAA explanation: sexual material, language and drug references
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